JUN 05th 2015

Goodwood Greats: Earl Howe's MG K3 Magnette

To stroll through the Goodwood paddock is to witness some of the most revered and historically-relevant motor cars that have ever competed. Between the Revival and the Members’ Meeting you might see the ex-Fangio Maserati 250F, the ex-Carrol Shelby Cobra, one of Senna‘s Grand Prix cars, or various of the Jaguar D-Types which have so enthralled racegoers the world over, for example.


Admittedly, at this year’s 73rd Members’ Meeting you could have been forgiven for not noticing the diminutive, 1100cc MG K3 amongst the more recognisable and extravagant machinery. But make no mistake, in terms of wealth of history this MG can comfortably rub shoulders with anything you see on-event in this part of West Sussex.


Our very own Andrew Frankel had the privilege of racing this car in the Earl Howe Trophy at 73MM, which was fitting because it was driven on the Mille Miglia by Earl Howe himself in 1933. In case the name isn’t familiar, Earl Howe was co-founder of the BRDC and a Le Mans winner in 1931. Without doubt his is one of the most esteemed names in British motor racing history. If you missed it first time round I’d highly advise you to take a look at Andrew’s Thank Frankel it’s Friday piece on the K3 from January, where he wrote about the Earl as well as the car and his prospects in the race.    

He reckoned at the time that being up against far more powerful Alfa Romeos, Bugattis and such like left him with little chance of success. More to the point he opined that he’d finish dead-last. As it turned out he managed a very respectable 15th out of 26 starters. Granted, the fragility of some of the Bugattis boosted the finishing position a tad, but keeping a supercharged 4.5 litre Bentley behind you at Goodwood with just 1100cc (which he did) is still a pretty neat trick.


‘I didn’t fit properly!’ Andrew said when we caught up with him to find out how the race went and what the car was like to drive. ‘Also, there was such a coolant leak that I really didn’t know whether it was actually raining or not! Then there was the matter of the pre-selector gearbox and wondering if I was in the correct gear.’ So far it sounds like the little K3 was a bit of a handful, but despite this he found it to be deceptively fast. ‘It is quicker than you think it’s going to be and it handles beautifully on the limit; I was sliding it around quite happily. The brakes also are far better than you’d expect and the engine spins away happily at 6,500rpm. I’ve driven it again since the Members’ Meeting and it’s a great little car to race.’   

The MG K3 Magnette would appear to indicate that in fact a willing gem of an engine and a good dollop of first class provenance can indeed provide the thrills of a car displacing many more cubic inches …even if you don’t really fit, the gearbox is tricky and there’s a hurricane of a coolant leak! 

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